(No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)- Race winner.
Finishes ninth after 26 races, qualifies for final 10-race chase.
"He (Jeff Gordon) pretty much said most of it right. I can see his point, but he's got to see mine. If we were me he'd be saying you need to make it zero right now. That would be pretty cool. Both teams, the 24 and 48 have been the teams to beat all year. It is kind of a weird situation for whoever was 10th, I'm going to say ninth because we're probably night right now. To sit here and complain about that, but I can definitely see his point. I haven't really thought about how the points are going to be rewarded. It is going to be pretty strange and trying to keep up with it on the racetrack and things like that. Like Jeff said one week you can go from first to 10th or 10th to first. There's probably going to be a lot of switching going on throughout the last 10 races.
"I didn't think it was too aggressive tonight. I thought it was a pretty good race. I didn't think it was too bad. I didn't see a lot of crazy stuff going on. I know there were a couple of cautions, and I wasn't too sure what happened on them. I thought it was pretty smooth, a lot of green flag laps. There were several cautions in a row, but I don't think it was real serious.
"Next week it'll be you haven't won in one race, so we'll start all over again. We had a really tough couple of years trying to get this team where it needs to be, and I think we've got it. I think we've been on our way to getting it there. It just all sort of came together. We probably needed the last two weeks. California and Bristol were reality checks for us. It kind of slapped us in the face and said you need to wake up and get on top of this thing or you're not going to be in it. Everybody on our race team stood up to the plate and gave me good cars and good motors and great stops to be able to win that thing.
"I've seen a whole new level this week, and Jeff can vouch for this. Ray has a way, it's wild, it's like he's got a power or something, a way of stepping the deal up when it needs to be stepped up. I don't know what he does. It's not in a negative way, either. It's a positive way. He talked to everybody all week and kept us all pumped up. He told me right before the race, no matter what happens, win, lose or draw, we walk out this gate with our heads up and keep going. It really wasn't a pressure thing. I don't know what happens. It's like magic. Everybody worked together well this week to be able to do this.
"That's kind of been our mentality anyway. Our crew chief Kenny Francis doesn't say a lot. He's kind of a quiet guy and the whole team is kind of a low key deal. We've just been doing our own thing and working with the 9 and working well with them. We learn from each other all the time. It's pretty cool. We were both close to getting in, and it's pretty neat having that situation for Ray. Maybe the experience level or our team being
together for a couple of years helped more than Tommy and them guys just being together this year. I'm sure they'll be tough from here on out and next year for sure. The only thing I can relate to is that we've been together a little longer.
"I couldn't believe it. The way my luck's been I thought there's no way in hell he (97 car) is going to run out of gas. They told me it was going to be close. I kept running hard trying to catch him. We were pretty even at the end. I just didn't know if I was going to have anything for him or not. All of a sudden he ran out, and I was like, 'this can't be true.' Now it's my turn to either cut a tire or hit the wall or something. That's luck and it's what we've been needing all year. The breaks kind of went our way tonight. It was an unbelievable feeling when I saw that.
"I was so proud of the race team tonight. The last couple of weeks we've been terrible on pit road. We stuck with the same guys. They kept working hard, and they worked real hard this week. They knew this race was going to be the one to pull us out of the hole, and they did it. They came in here tonight and did their part and did it well. I'm very proud of them.
"I kinda watched the Busch cars last night and the trucks the night before, and the tires really weren't falling off that much. We chose to stay in front the first half of the race and remember what we had to do. We came in and got gas only and we were pretty good on old tires. Then we had to pit under green and if there had been a caution there would have been big trouble, too. We gambled a little bit and it paid off for us.
"In the last four or five races we've made huge gains in our team and also the last two weeks lost it all. Ten races is longer than you think. This was our turning point last year, from here on. It was a long 10 races then and I'm sure it's going to be a long 10 now. I think you've got to go all out. The good thing about it now is you're locked in the top 10. You have nothing to lose. You might as well go for it every week.
"I couldn't see us getting in without winning the thing. That was our only option, unless he (Jeff Gordon) didn't show up and Jimmie (Johnson) didn't start his car up. We were in trouble. We had to win tonight, and if we didn't we wouldn't be here. We might have if we finished second or third or something. That was our goal. We weren't going to accept anything else."